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Our COVID-19 response: Reflecting back

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*All Data Reflects Time Period March 15, 2020 through March 31, 2021.

COVID-19 ushered in one of the most daunting chapters in The Bowery Mission’s history. But just like in tragedies and crises before in our nearly 150-year history, we were reminded of God’s faithfulness, our community’s resilience and our supporters’ generous compassion. With your help, our Red Doors continued to be a haven — a place where people continued to hear “yes, come in.”

Crisis support during COVID-19 

In March 2020, The Bowery Mission adapted each aspect of its operations virtually overnight in order to continue providing life-saving care to neighbors experiencing homelessness, hunger and other crises — and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some services were temporarily moved outdoors, while others were modified to protect the health and safety of all onsite.

Staff and guest

“We created new processes to support the health and safety of each guest, client, staff and volunteer, creating an environment of love, order, peace and dignity at a time of fear and crisis.” — Cheryl Mitchell, Chief Program Officer

From the very onset of the pandemic, life-saving to-go meals eased the ache of hunger among New Yorkers looking for their next meal. Just one year after the pandemic shut down New York City on March 15, The Bowery Mission had distributed more than 300,000 life-sustaining meals to thousands of New Yorkers. Our faithful volunteers showed up time and time again, selflessly putting themselves on the line to prepare meals for neighbors in need.

In a season when hygiene was critically important, the Mission also acted quickly to offer outdoor hand washing, mobile showers, PPE, personal items and public toilets for New Yorkers in crisis. The relaunch of a modified clothing and shower program provided comfort and dignity to people with few options for basic hygiene care.

Healing residential communities

From the time lockdown began, The Bowery Mission remained committed to keeping “home” open for people whose home was The Bowery Mission. Thousands of New Yorkers found safe emergency shelter at the Mission’s Tribeca Campus — with all operations modified to ensure new protocols for social distancing, cleaning, and health screening. 

At the Mission’s uptown residential campuses, more than 300 clients sheltered safely in place, continuing their journeys to independence within the context of warm, supportive communities. New daily rhythms fostered a sense of community and routine, helping clients feel safe, valued and loved.

Raffael at Bowery campus

“Being unemployed, fighting cancer, homeless, I began to wonder how I would survive….I’m learning that I don’t have to be in control all of the time. God, in His wisdom, is taking me on a journey that is teaching me to trust, even during the worst of times.” — Rafael, client of The Bowery Mission

Clients were equipped with their own Zoom accounts and tablets, helping them stay connected to meaningful relationships, classes, appointments, chapel services, and more. New Zoom Rooms provided private spaces for telehealth or telepsychiatry appointments and virtual job interviews.

Support for children & families

Through Mont Lawn Camp and City Camp, The Bowery Mission continued to offer ongoing enrichment and mentoring for children and youth, with all activities transitioned to virtual platforms or socially distanced settings. The Mission also launched virtual tutoring out of an urgent need to help children who were struggling with remote learning

Mont Lawn City Camp

In a time of increased isolation and boredom, 160 children and youth continued to play, learn, build life long skills and stay connected to friends and mentors.

Mont Lawn City Camp

To support families, the Mission established a relief fund to provide for practical needs in an uncertain time. In total, the Mission provided two rounds of Relief Funding, totaling $50,000, to 96 families in the South Bronx and East Harlem.

Looking ahead

Though we’ve made it more than a year since the pandemic hit, The Bowery Mission’s work is not done. As restaurants reopen and the streets come alive, many New Yorkers are still feeling the impact of COVID-19-related job losses and pay cuts. Meanwhile, variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to pose new risks.

Yet in the midst of new obstacles, we are determined to weather these uncertain times. We remain committed to the highest standards in health and safety, and are vigilantly monitoring the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

What’s more, we remain hopeful. We are hopeful because God has provided for New Yorkers through The Bowery Mission since the 1870s. The Bowery Mission stood with New Yorkers during the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, September 11 and Hurricane Sandy. Today, with your help, and with God’s help, we are able to stand with New Yorkers once again.

The Bowery Mission

Get involved

There are multiple ways to get involved in the life-transforming work of The Bowery Mission. Learn how your support can provide critical care and rebuild hope for people experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty in the New York metro area.